Ten out of ten as Oban Saints dump Argyll rivals
‘ We pressed high up the park and never let their defence settle on the ball’
Oban Saints 10 Campbeltown Pupils 0 SAFL Premier Division
TWO goals on his competitive debut for youngster Daniel Croarkin put the icing on the cake for Saints manager Alex Craik as he watched his charges put ten past Argyll rivals Campbeltown Pupils at Glencruitten last Saturday afternoon.
An Argyll Derby had all the makings of a tricky opening day fixture for Saints, however the home side received a major boost when injuries and holidays forced Pupils to name a virtually unrecognisable lineup.
Only four players remained from the corresponding fixture last season with the absence of Gary Grumoli, Pupils top scorer for the past eight seasons, a significant omission.
Saints welcomed back Willie Gemmell and Dean Smith to the squad that narrowly lost out in the Argyll and Bute Cup the previous week. Also making a welcome return was skipper Marc Maccallum missing through injury since the D&K Lafferty Cup.
Marc won the toss of referee Jimmy Litster’s coin and elected to kick off attacking the railway end. Glencruitten had successfully passed an early morning pitch inspection and was in remarkably good condition given the recent heavy rain which continued to fall before eventually clearing away after the opening 10 minutes.
Saints made a sluggish start and survived a scare in the fifth minute when the visitors almost punished some docile defending at a free kick. Paul Kerr was penalised for a foul on Ryan McConnachie 30 yards from goal and slightly right of centre. Pupils took the free kick quickly sending Martin McCallum tearing off up the right wing and catching the Saints defence asleep. McCallum sent a dangerous cross into the box which was turned goalward and cleared off the line before Ryan Gilchrist fired the loose ball narrowly wide of Thomas McCulloch’s left hand post.
Saints were eventually awoken from their slumber by some stern words from the sidelines from Gaffer Craik. They tested Robert Coffield in the Pupils goal for the first time in the eighth minute. Craig MacEwan flicked on a Willie Gemmell pass into the path of Donald Campbell who sent in a looping right foot shot from 22 yards to which Coffield got both hands pushing the ball over his crossbar.
Ross Maitland had two chances within a minute firstly being foiled by a finger tip save by Coffield after cutting in from the right and firing a low shot across the keeper. Secondly making poor contact with an effort from 16 yards screwing his shot wide with Coffield caught in no man’s land.
The Saints pressure finally bore fruit in the 17th minute when Craig MacEwan stooped on the six yard line to head home a Ross Maitland cross from the right. Ross was the provider again in the 23rd minute picking out Donald Campbell in the box to slot past Robert Coffield to make it 2- 0.
Saints experienced midfield triumvirate of Myles McAuley, Paul Kerr and Willie Gemmell were totally dominant in the middle of the park allowing Willie to use his excellent passing range to good effect. A raking ball from Willie started the move for Saints third goal in the 25th minute sending Craig MacEwan towards the bye-line wide on the right. With an exquisite touch Craig pulled the ball down and looped a cross into the six yard box for Ross Maitland to knock into the roof of the net with his left foot.
Saints added a fourth in the 31st minute from a corner kick on the right won by Donald Campbell. Ross Maitland found the head of David McArthur with another good delivery with the Saints full back unlucky to see his powerful downward header stopped on the line by Grant Grant. Myles McAuley won the ball from the Pupils defender and laid it back to Donald Campbell who thumped an emphatic finish into the net from seven yards.
The movement of the Saints front three had the Pupils defence chasing shadows and almost immediately from the restart only a well timed last ditch tackle from Keith Mitchell prevented Donald Campbell from adding to the scoring after a perfectly weighted through ball from Craig MacEwan had Donald bearing down on goal.
Saints’ incessant pressure told just two minutes later when Scott Maitland made a driving run into the box passing up a shooting opportunity in favour of a lay off to Donald Campbell. Donald cracked a shot off Robert Coffield’s left hand post and with the Pupils defence all at sea Craig MacEwan was on hand to roll the rebound into the net for goal number five.
In a quieter spell leading up to the interval Martin McCallum demonstrated his shooting ability fizzing a free kick inches wide of Thomas McCulloch’s right hand post before referee Litster blew for half time.
The visitors managed to keep the Saints attack at bay for only nine second half minutes before Donald Campbell completed his hat-trick. Ross Maitland made a devastating run on the right leaving two defenders trailing in his wake and flighting over another excellent cross to the back post where Donald Campbell climbed well against Grant Grant to head back across Robert Coffield and into the postage stamp corner.
Coffield was powerless to stop Craig MacEwan from completing the second hat-trick of the day when Craig made a near post run to glance Ross Maitland’s corner from the right inside the far post for Saints seventh.
A rare loose finish from Donald Campbell after beating the offside trap was a let- off for the beleaguered Pupils defence. However, that was only a brief stay of execution before Donald and Ross Maitland took their respective goals and assists totals to four in the 62nd minute. Donald got the better of Shaun Grumoli at the back post to divert a cross from Ross high into the net putting Saints eight goals up with 28 minutes still to play.
Despite being totally outplayed the visitors never gave up and Saints central defensive pairing of Marc Maccallum and Dene Cassells had to maintain their focus to preserve their precious clean sheet.
The Gaffer withdrew Myles McAuley, David McArthur and Craig MacEwan giving substitutes Daniel Croarkin, Fraser MacFarlane and Dean Smith a twenty five minute opportunity to influence proceedings which they were to grab with both hands.
Shortly after entering the fray Daniel Croarkin made a good block on the edge of his own box to block a shot from Martin McCallum who had been the visitor’s most potent goal threat throughout.
As the match briefly threatened to boil over Keith Mitchell found his way into referee Litster’s notebook for a late challenge on Paul Kerr and was closely followed by Dene Cassells after a spot of retribution on the Pupils skipper.
Mr Litster quickly brought things under control before Saints once more increased the pressure on the Pupils goal. All three Saints substitutes were involved in the build up for the ninth goal with Daniel Croarkin finishing off the move showing good strength on the ball to force his way into the box and calmly slot past the Pupils keeper from ten yards.
Young Daniel made it a dream debut double in the 88th minute heading a Donald Campbell cross from the left high into the net to complete the scoring and send Saints into double figures.
Referee Jimmy Litster, who successfully kept the lid on a highly competitive Argyll derby, ended the agony for Pupils allowing only a bare minimum of stoppage time before blowing the final whistle.
Despite the emphatic scoreline full credit must go to the depleted Pupils team who kept plugging away all afternoon and will hope to be back to full strength before their next two extremely daunting fixtures against St Joseph’s and East Kilbride.
Manager Alex Craik was delighted with the performance of his team. He said: ‘Despite a sluggish start we played some great stuff today. Some of the inter-passing and running off the ball was excellent and everybody worked really hard for each other. We pressed high up the park and never let their defence settle on the ball. I know they weren’t at full strength but I’m sure they will turn the corner when they get their full squad back.’
Next up for Saints is a visit to face newly promoted Motherwell Thistle at Wishaw Sports Centre, kick- off 2pm.
Donald Campbell is congratulated by Myles McAuley, Paul Kerr, David McArthur, Ross Maitland and Craig MacEwan after the Saints striker had scored his third goal of the game.
Saints skipper Marc Maccallum congratulates young Daniel Croarkin on scoring his second and his team’s tenth goal against Campbeltown Pupils.
Ross Maitland, who had a great game for Saints on the right flank leaves Alan Glendinning in his wake.